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Tackling Theft with the Market Reduction Approach

 This document is published for archival/historical purposes. It will not be updated.

The full Market Reduction Approach model, presented for the first time in this report offers a strategic, systematic and routine problem-solving framework for action against the roots of theft. This publication is the first to review comprehensively what is known about stolen goods markets and to offer detailed guidelines, based on general “what works” knowledge, for reducing illegal markets with an aim to reduce theft at the local area level.

Key Points

The main aim of this second Home Office report on the Market Reduction Approach (MRA) is to provide a strategic guide for crime prevention partnerships to tackle theft by reducing the trade in stolen goods. This report contains information about planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation that will serve as a valuable guide for both long-term inter-agency initiatives and smaller-scale police operations against specific types of market, thieves and dealers in stolen goods.

The MRA model is heavily influenced by current thinking on inter-agency project management and also by the latest developments in crime reduction methods. The report describes the MRA model and explains how it incorporates the main elements of situational crime prevention, proactive policing, problem oriented policing, intelligence-led policing and the problem solving process.


The ERASOR (Extra Routine and Systematic Opportunistic Research) process involves asking questions of victims, offenders, informants and traders whenever the opportunity arises, in order to get up-to-date information about stolen goods markets. Similarly, market information should also be sought proactively through anonymous in-depth interviews with imprisoned offenders and those serving community service orders. Paid police informants should, as a matter of routine, be asked to identify those dealing in particular types of stolen goods, where they are operating from and how active they are.

When information obtained from traditional crime data is combined with that learned from ERASOR then it is possible to know the following:

  • the particular types of items that are most commonly stolen

  • items most sought after by thieves and fences

  • the type of markets that are dealing in particular types of stolen goods

  • where markets exist for particular types of stolen goods

  • who is dealing in particular types of stolen goods and the type of market they use

Broader recommendations for police to use in MRA crime reduction projects

General recommendations for a MRA project can be divided into three categories. While distinctions between these can, at times become blurred, the basic categories are strategic, operational, and monitoring/evaluation:


  • Develop guidelines to enable project managers to identify and prioritise particular crimes to tackle, and also the individuals and targets most at risk of victimisation - and those most likely to benefit from action.

  • Establish a project steering group consisting of representatives from local government, businesses and professional researchers. The steering group must be monitored to ensure that it is not merely acting as a “rubber stamp” for the project manager's decisions and that it does not make arbitrary decisions based on intuition.

  • Liaise with local justices and their clerks, judges and crown prosecutors to explain the aims of the project in terms of the anticipated increase in the number of defendants being charged with handling stolen goods.

  • Always know the ‘mechanism’ by which a particular tactic should work to achieve the desired aim—ask: “in what way, exactly, will this work”.

  • After each ‘crackdown’, consolidate any successful crime reduction by implementing longer term tactics to address the underlying problems that led to the need for a crackdown in the first place.

  • Avoid operations that aim to identify stolen goods for return to rightful owners - because research suggests that this is very resource intensive and is not at all cost effective in reducing acquisitive crime.


  • Seek to tackle those fences described by offenders as giving good or fair prices for stolen goods - because research suggests that these people are likely to encourage increased offending.

  • Use of Section 27 of the Theft Act of 1968 to discourage prolific thieves and handlers of stolen goods from continuing to engage in these activities.

  • To help deter offenders, develop good public relations systems for the project - to ensure the provision of on-going news reports with local and national media coverage.

  • Seek local authority co-operation to crack down on rogue traders - establish close lines of communication with trading standards officers.

  • Consider very carefully the possible problems that can result from police ‘sting’ operations - such as bogus second-hand shops - because they are expensive, time consuming and research shows they may lead to an influx of crime into the area around the sting.


  • Before and after the implementation of particular tactics, always ask, "is this the most cost-effective way of disrupting this market?”.

  • Find a balance between spending money quickly and perhaps carelessly, with the need to collect proper data and to justify targeting particular property, areas, victims, crimes and offenders.

  • Appoint someone with responsibilities for continually monitoring various aspects of the implementation and, where possible, the impact of the project.

  • Define success and those measures by which success is to be judged be sure to avoid falsely claiming successes if they did not arise from the project.

  • Seek to limit the possibility of any displacement to other more vulnerable targets and places.


While the MRA is straightforward, logical and appears to have great crime reducing potential, it is at this stage an innovative crime reducing philosophy. The MRA has been adopted in several projects funded under the Government’s Crime Reduction Programme. Therefore, within the next three years this innovative approach will receive an independent evaluation of how it was implemented in each area and the costs and benefits.

Getting a copy

Crime Reduction Research Series Paper 8 - Tackling Theft with the Market Reduction Approach PDF 387Kb (full report)

Last update: Wednesday, August 27, 2008

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